Can you Give your Dog Chocolate?
Most people are aware that it can be extremely dangerous when a dog eats chocolate, but what you may not know that it’s the amount and type of chocolate that makes it poisonous. While the occasional chocolate chip in one cookie isn’t an issue, certain types of chocolate are very toxic to dogs.
In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the danger. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose the biggest problem.
For example, a 50-pound dog can be sickened by ingesting only one ounce of Baker’s chocolate! On the other hand, it may take up to eight ounces (half a pound) of milk chocolate to cause poisoning in that same sized dog. For white chocolate, it would take over 100 pounds to cause chocolate poisoning in a 50-pound dog; that said, he’d also get really sick from all that fat and sugar!
With chocolate, the chemical toxicity is due to methylxanthines (a relative of caffeine). The results are vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, lethargy, agitation, increased thirst, an abnormal heart rhythm or racing heart rate, seizures, and possibly death.
Clinical signs of poisoning can be seen with as low as 20 mg/kg of theobromine. Amounts greater than 40 mg/kg of theobromine can result in cardiotoxicity — in other words, it’s poisonous to the heart and can result in a racing heart rate and heart arrhythmias. Amounts greater than 60 mg/kg of theobromine can result in neurotoxicity — in other words, it’s poisonous to the nervous system and can result in tremors, seizures, or even death.
Remember, with any poisoning, it’s always cheaper, less invasive, and has a better prognosis/outcome if you treat early. Once your dog has already developed clinical signs and is affected by the poison, it makes for a much more expensive veterinary visit!
Treatment includes inducing vomiting (depending on when the chocolate was ingested), giving activated charcoal several times (to bind the chocolate from the stomach and intestines), anti-vomiting medication, and potentially, IV fluids and heart medication (e.g., beta-blockers). So, avoid this problem by pet-proofing your house adequately instead, and keeping your chocolate stash elevated and out of reach. That way you can avoid that spring-time visit to your emergency vet at 1 a.m.
You can see from the chart below how much theobromine is in different types of chocolate. If you’re mathematically challenged during stressful situations (e.g., your dog just got poisoned!), doing advanced math might be harder than you think.
Source: Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion: Small Animal Toxicology, 1st Ed., 2010; Small Animal Toxicology, 2nd ed., 2006
When in doubt, you can always call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680 to determine if the amount of chocolate ingested was poisonous or not.
Adapted from The Daily Vet